It began well before COVID-19 with online grocery shopping companies coming into existence in 2011. Bigbasket was the first company to start its business in India in 2011 followed by its competitors Amazon Pantry and Amazon Fresh in 2012, and Grofers in 2013. For a long time, they have been offering their services by delivering groceries and other related products at the doorstep. The concept began when companies like Bigbasket identified the need of working couples in metro cities who have less time to purchase groceries and other related products. Gradually, they expanded their businesses on two fronts – geographically by moving towards other areas and by updating their offerings based on increasing demand.
COVID-19 has been a turning point for online grocery delivery businesses as ‘lockdown’ and ‘immunity’ were the buzz. Countries around the world are experiencing lockdown one after the other and consumers are unable to get groceries supplies to their kitchens. To fight with the coronavirus, one has to keep an eye on his/her daily intake of healthy and fresh food to maintain immunity. Consumers are now demanding healthy and fresh grocery items at their doorstep on a daily basis with a sense of impatience. If it is an uncooked grocery item, consumers can wait for some time or some days. But when it comes to ‘ready to eat’ food, what about the delivery time? Here, a big transition has started with delivery being instant, but with no fixed definition of time. Long ago, Pizza companies had set a benchmark of 30 minutes delivery. Now, it has to be 30 minutes or less. With instant delivery being provided by companies only for ‘ready to eat’ items, the obvious question now is – if it is feasible for a ‘ready to eat’ item, then why not for an item ‘ready to deliver’? As the show must go on, with every extra mile of competition, companies are aggressively taking advantage of ‘out-of-the-box thinking’.
Currently, there are many companies that are taking a deep dive into the ocean of offering ‘doorstep deliveries’ of groceries and ‘ready to eat’ meals to their customers. Among these, BlinkIt (formerly Groffers) is promising to deliver everything in just 10 minutes, followed by Swiggy Instamart in 15-30 minutes, Dunzo in 19 minutes, Ola in 5-15 minutes, and Zepto in 5-10 minutes. Domino’s and Zomato, who entered the race during COVID-19’s first wave left the race whereas Dunzo and Zepto recently jumped into the ocean. As per the online source, the quickest grocery delivery that has happened so far is in 84 seconds in Bengaluru, the city of entrepreneurs (Ramesh, 2021). It happened miraculously due to three favorable factors. First, short distance between the pick and drop. Second, the item is readily available, just need a pick-n-drop. Third, no road traffic due to night time.
Time to Think:
In the last decade, this segment of market and consumers has gone through a lot of twists and turns that are clearly visible to everyone. Now is the time to take a kitkat break for the players in the market and analyze what is happening. What are the possible pros and cons? Who will be the beneficiaries and pain-takers out of all this? Are you making your customers impatient?
Once upon a time, people waiting for a long-long time just to receive an answer in the form of an Inland letter (that blue letter) must refresh your nostalgic memories. But now, the fundamental change is clearly visible in consumer behaviour. The level of patience has come down from ‘long wait’ to ‘reasonable wait’ to ‘no wait’ state. Another thing that is quite noticed by experts is that consumers have two currencies in their pocket before buying anything from anywhere (offline and online). First, the real money that they actually spent to own a product/service. And, second, time that they are spending on searching, executing, and waiting for the product to reach them. Now, experts are observing consumers to be more conscious about spending their other currency, i.e., time.
Take a deep breath and think about the pros and cons before going ahead in this race. Marketers need to understand that their unique promise at this time will become an expected product/service level in the future. Undoubtedly, while marketers and consumers are the beneficiaries, what about the delivery agents driving under pressure to meet the promise of the brand along with other logistic teams? Are companies putting the life of delivery agents at risk? Do companies have enough delivery efficiency before making such promises? These questions are very important and need to be addressed before taking another step to win the race.
Dr Anuradha Yadav